Jubilee Hills Apollo Hospital fined Rs.10,000, asked to stop charging registration fees from patients

The commission said that the hospitals are not authorized to collect registration charges or any data from the patients as a prerequisite for availing the services of a doctor.

By Sumit Jha  Published on  1 Nov 2021 4:16 AM GMT
Jubilee Hills Apollo Hospital fined Rs.10,000, asked to stop charging registration fees from patients

Hyderabad: Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission has asked Apollo Hospital, Jubilee Hills, to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation and discontinue the Restrictive Trade Practice of collecting registration fees from first-time patients.

The commission said that the hospitals are not authorized to collect registration charges or any data from the patients as a prerequisite for availing the services of a doctor.

Vijay Gopal, Founder of Forum Against Corruption had visited the hospital on June 15, 2019, to consult a doctor for his mother. Before an appointment with the concerned doctor, the complainant was asked to pay a sum of Rs. 200 towards the registration fee. Besides, he was asked to pay Rs.900 as a consultation fee.

Vijay said that he asked the receptionist at the counter that if it was necessary to pay Rs. 200 towards the registration fee before the consultation of a doctor. The receptionist told him that it was a policy. As such, the complainant having no option paid a total sum of Rs. 1100 and took the appointment. But surprisingly, he found that the bill was issued only for the sum of Rs. 900 i.e. the consultation fee. No receipt was given for Rs. 200. He was told that the receipt will be given on the next visit.

The complainant submitted that he asked the hospital as to why the hospital was collecting such registration fees and whether they had any authorization from the government agency. He said the administration told him that it was the hospital policy. When he inquired whether the hospital has any mechanism to register complaints of patients, he was told that that they do not maintain any registers. However, he was told that the patients can fill a feed-back-form.

Apollo Hospital in its submission said that the registration for the patient is done for necessary demographics. At the time of registration, a unique number (UHID) is provided to the patient and the registration is done only once in a lifetime. Any number of visits or admissions thereafter does not require registration.

All the patient transactions, visits, admission, patient documents are tracked using the UHID number only. This is absolutely essential for patient assessment, investigation, storage, and retrieval of patient documents /information. They also submitted that the patients who come to their hospital in emergency condition are not insisted for payment of registration fee.

After examining the documents and evidence, the commission observed that it has been stated by the Apollo Hospital in its written version that the Registration Fee was charged for the purpose of collecting the data of the patient and uploading the same for the subsequent treatment.

"Such collection of the registration fee from the patients should be discretionary and left open to the patients. It cannot be made compulsory as the condition precedent for obtaining an appointment/consultation of a doctor. The patient who is being treated by a particular doctor in a particular hospital may not consult him again. Therefore, the hospitals are not authorized for the collection of such registration charges or any data from the patients as a pre-requisite for availing the services of a doctor," observed the commission.

The court took note of the Director of Public Health's absence. Despite multiple notices from the court, they did not appear and termed their action as unfortunate.

"They are having authority to supervise / monitor and take stringent action against the management of the hospital for violation of the mandatory provisions under the Clinical and Establishment Act. It is most unfortunate that in spite of notice from this Commission, they chose not to turn up," said the commission.

The commission also asked the hospital to receive and resolve the grievances of the patients.

After the judgment, Vijay Gopal said he is glad that the court has directed Apollo and all such other hospitals to stop this practice of collecting a Rs 200 registration fee. The commission has asked the Director of Medical Health to ensure that this practice is curbed across hospitals in Hyderabad.

"I am disappointed that the hospital was not slapped with any penalty. I had requested the court to levy Rs 10 lakh penalty. The hospital probably made millions through their restrictive trade practice, yet no penalty was levied on them. I hope the consumer courts do more than just issue compensation to victims and also levy significant financial penalties on the culprits," said Vijay.

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